The Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea) is an Arctic to
Antarctic traveler with annual migrations of up to 24,000
miles round trip. On its wintering grounds, this Olympic
flyer benefits from a “second summer” giving it more
hours of daylight than any other bird.
In addition to excellent flying abilities, this slender
tern is also known for its elegant breeding plumage. The
bill, feet, and legs are blood-red. The upper wings and
back are light gray, contrasting with a jet-black cap. The
tail is long and deeply forked. Arctic Terns often mix on
coastal breeding grounds with Aleutian Terns (Sterna
aleutica). They are similar in appearance and both have a
black cap, but the Aleutian Tern has a white forehead,
black bill, feet and legs, and the wings are a darker gray.
Nests of the Arctic Tern are commonly made near
fresh or salt water in open, usually treeless environments.
The nest is very difficult to spot unless it contains eggs; it
is little more than a shallow depression scraped in the
ground. Intruders in nesting areas are often met with
aggressive dives and pecks on the back or head